Recently CNN featured a story about the official declaration of extinction of the Western African Black Rhino. Its close family members, the Northern White Rhino and Javan Rhino, will soon follow. In the United States alone there are 422 animals listed as endangered, and another 166 that are threatened. With the growing human population, now predicted to be over seven billion, many species are becoming extinct due to encroachment on habitat and unrestricted hunting practices. Here are five animals you will never see, not even in a zoo, because they became extinct before your lifetime:
Thylacine: Also known as the Tasmanian tiger, this Australian native was the largest carnivorous marsupial. Looking like a cross between a dog and a tiger, this guy is unique in that it had a pouch similar to that of a kangaroo. Since this carnivore posed a threat to flocks of sheep, they were hunted and killed in order to protect the human food supply. In 1936, the last thylacine was killed. The occasional “sighting” still occurs on the island of Tasmania, although nothing has been confirmed.
Passenger Pigeon: You may have heard the story of the extinction of the passenger pigeon. A mere 200 years ago they were the most common bird in North America, with a single flock reaching more than a billion birds. Just imagine a massive black cloud of birds flying over your house during migration! Unfortunately, because of their large numbers, they were an easy target for people looking for cheap food. By 1914, the last passenger pigeon died in the Cincinnati Zoo.
Caspian Tiger: Any one of the subspecies of tiger is amazing to behold. The Caspian, or Persian, tiger used to be the third large subspecies and roamed the lands of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and other Middle-Eastern countries. Its coloring was similar to the Bengal Tiger, another endangered species. Extinction was the result of ruthless hunting by big game seekers and destruction of environment by urban human development.
Quagga: Take the head and shoulders of a Zebra and combine them with the body and legs of a horse—and voilá! You now have a Quagga. This South African native has been extinct since 1883, when the last quagga died in captivity. Extinction was due to hunting by humans. The Quagga provided meat and leather to humans, but was an unwelcome competition for other livestock when it came to finding grass to feed them on.
Caribbean Monk Seal: Yes, there are seals that live in warm water. One of these used to be the Caribbean Monk Seal who made his home in the Caribbean sea and Gulf of Mexico. In fact, this was the only seal that resided in those waters. Columbus even wrote about this animal when he made his second voyage to America. However, he started a bad tradition, which was followed by many of the other incoming Europeans, of killing these seals to use for food and oil. The saddest part? This animal was only declared extinct in June 2008, although the last sightings were back in 1952.